How and why we wish to teach our kids to be solutions oriented instead of turning them into whiners.
All parents had the moment when they are in a public situation and their child is cranky, wants something and starts whining. We are loving parents therefore we try to understand our child’s emotional upset. Maybe he is hungry, maybe she didn’t get enough sleep and is overly tired, maybe he has a tummy ache, maybe something upset him. How do you find the balance of being there for your child when they need your help and from overindulging behaviors that may reinforce a lifetime of victim attitudes that hurt the child’s happiness and success in the long run?
Here are some tips to help your child to deal with the world’s ups and downs without whining by modeling healthy coping skills:
1. Verbalization Skills
Kids watch our every move and they empathize with each of our own moods. The key to modeling healthy behavior is to help them to verbalize how they feel. This can be done by your labeling your own moods and feelings. Mom feels upset, dad feels pressured, mom feel in a hurry, dad is tired and a bit cranky, and needs space. Mom feels sad because something she wanted didn’t work out in the way she hoped.
2. Model healthy coping skills
When dad is tired, dad deals with the issue and takes a nap. When mom is sad, she puts on some music that soothes her mind, looks as photos of the family, reads a good book, or goes for a walk. When dad feels too much pressure, he analyzes the situation, identifies areas of improvement and asks for assistance. When Mom gets upset, she takes 10 deep breaths and counts to ten to calm herself down or takes a yoga class. When mom is in a hurry, she asks for help from everyone in the family. When dad needs some space, he goes to his room to collect himself.
Kids who have parents who model the ability to verbalize their emotions and identify healthy coping skills, will have an easier time dealing with their own emotions. And, they will be quite supportive and compassionate, just the way you are for your partner and each one of your kids.
Allow your child to own her feelings and encourage her to find healthy ways to cope with them. Never tell your child not to feel what he is feeling. This simply gets them to be confused and they will not label their own feeling correctly, leading to all sorts of psychological and soft skill issues down the road.
3. Foster Self Control
Even though your child may be upset, don’t allow them to take out their feelings on those around them. Instead encourage them to identify self-soothing behaviors, a nap, some exercise, reading a book, listening to music, making a salad, etc.
When they are ready to discuss their feelings in a calm way, encourage them tell you about the issues that caused them emotional upset, and to analyze what exactly they are upset about. Have them break it into bite size pieces. Then encourage them to join into a brainstorming session as to what they can do about it this time, or how they could make the situation better, or how they can avoid it next time. Sometimes it is well within your child’s power to solve the problem they face.
Maybe they need to apologize to a friend, maybe they need to study more to get better grades, maybe they need to exercise more and stop eating third portions or stop drinking sugary beverages to slim down. Allow them to find ways to solve their problems. Kids are very practical and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when they put their new plans into action. It also builds their sense of mastery and in turn strengthens their self-esteem.
4. Encourage them to focus on possible solutions
Help them research multiple ways to solve their issues. They can find multiple solutions and then choose from the many options they came up with in the creative brainstorming session. Go to your library, talk to experts, research it together on the internet. Let them run through the pros and cons of each option. This will engage them and empower them to develop healthy coping skills. It also will teach them managerial skills as a side benefit.
5. Offer them your undivided attention and time to work through their issues.
Be there for them and give them your full attention. Recent research shows that having someone show empathy helps, when for instance the child falls down and skins his knee. Enjoying positive and empathetic attention, actually literally soothes pain. Pain signals to the brain come from both physical damage and from associated emotions. Stroke the part that hurts and ask the pain to stop. Repeat until it goes away. In Spain, Germany, Down Under – pain is literally removed from the body by having the parent sing a healing song. It works. “Sana sana colita de rana” in Spanish or “Heile, Heile, Segen” in German.
6. Allocate time to focus on their issues. Set an appointment.
If you can’t be there in person at the moment of your child’s pain or upset, talk with the child via their smartwatch and then set up an appointment. Over time the child will learn that many things can wait for a little while, and they still are able to address their issues and work on them in a healthy and productive way. Make sure you follow through on the appointment in a timely fashion. That builds trust and respect for your relationship. Having a conversation with your child in a timely fashion, with a more detailed conversation during your afternoon break, and a larger conversation over dinner works great even for busy parents.
7. Empower them to focus on solutions instead of problems.
By teaching your child problem solving techniques your child will feel empowered to deal with whatever happens and focus the child on the solution rather than on the problem. Whining is not helpful since it does not focus the child on solving a problem. It also makes the child annoying and they will have social issues at school and at later on at work. It teaches the child that they are a victim of circumstance, rather than that they are in charge of their own life.
8. Teach them to focus on what they can do, instead of what they can't influence.
Teach your child that they may not be able to control what happens to them, but they are able to control how they respond to a situation.
For additional help you may wish to read Dr. Laura Markham’s book and take one of her courses. You may also greatly enjoy the positive techniques Lori Lite offers parents and kids to lead a stress-free life.
Helpful words vs Unhelpful words - a video for parents and kids